Egypt’s minister of immigration and expatriate affairs, Nabila Makram, says Australia’s government should reconsider its advice to citizens who are travelling to Egypt, explaining in a pre-recorded radio interview her country is not as dangerous as the media makes out.
“Egypt is making huge progress but the problem is with the media, they only focus on the negative news, but we have a parliament and we have 90 parliamentarian women out of 500,” said Makram in the interview that will air on Melbourne’s 96.5 Inner FM on Monday 17 October at 8pm.
The Australian government’s current advice to citizens who are planning to visit Egypt is, “reconsider your need to travel”.
Makram, who has been meeting with ministers and parliamentarians, says her country has its fair share of challenges but Egypt is now open for business and safe for travellers.
“When I was talking with the Australian ministers and parliamentarians I was trying to explain that please come to Egypt and send people, journalists, send travel agencies.”
She continues: “Yes we have obstacles, like everyone else, but even more. We have gone through two [recent] revolutions … and lots of [other] problems as well, and [these things accumulate and] it needs time to fix.
“But how to fix it? It’s not only by the president, it’s not [only] by the government, it should be done also by the people. That is another reason for me to come and to talk to people to tell them that each one of you has a responsibility to promote for his country.”
Makram says she’s enjoyed meeting and talking with Australian-Egyptians, but again registered her frustration with the international media as well as the social media coming out of Egypt.
“Australia is far away. And I might be the first minister coming to Australia [for] a long, long time. But it’s really an important matter to talk to Egyptians about what’s going on in Egypt, because unfortunately, what they receive from the social media – and the media – is totally wrong.”
Egypt has been anything but stable over the past few years. Long-time leader Hosni Mubarak was toppled from power during the Arab Spring in 2011. Mohammed Morsi from the Islamist group Muslim Brotherhood emerged as the next leader, winning an election in June 2012. Morsi didn’t last long enough to warm the chair, before the army ousted him from power in mid-2013. Former army chief Abdul Fattah al-Sisi was elected president in May 2014. Al-Sisi has held Egypt together since but not without serious criticism at home and abroad.
“Five years after popular protests forced Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak to resign, Egypt is among the world’s worst jailers of journalists,” says the Committee to Protect Journalists. “Since January 1, four people [have been] sentenced for ‘publishing false news’, five others are referred to trial, and two others are detained.”
The Egyptian military launched airstrikes in the Sinai peninsula against terrorist group ISIS “to avenge the blood” of its soldiers killed in an attack on a military checkpoint last Friday, reported CNN on October 16.
Though minister Makram hasn’t met with Australia’s foreign minister Julie Bishop, she said she did meet with her counterpart, immigration minster Peter Dutton.
Tall, engaging and personable, Makram stands out in a crowd. On Friday 14 October, she was part of a panel who took questions from Melbourne’s Egyptian community at the Egyptian consulate.
“Australia for me, it’s a discovery, really,” said Makram.
“I’m discovering Egyptian expats. And I’m so proud because whenever I sit with any minister, he praises the Egyptian community because they are very well integrated.”
Photos: Bill Snaddon